It’s really all about germs, isn’t it?
You’ve all heard the argument when it comes to drying your hands: should you use paper towels or the electric hand dryer? Which is more hygienic? Which is more environmentally responsible? Which is more efficient and economical? Or should you just let your hands air dry and forget about the whole thing?
Research has been done to compare both methods of hand drying and the verdict is – ready? – that, environmentally speaking, they’re about the same.
Each approach has a small advantage over the other, depending on various factors, such as the number of paper towels used (two on average), recycled paper or not, length of time, power usage of the electric dryer and regional electricity impacts. So, basically, it depends on how the electricity is generated and how the paper towels are made and disposed of.
What about those fancy new hand dryers that are popping up everywhere? You know, the non-heated, super rapid-air kind that strip the water right off of your hands. Research shows that they have a much shorter drying time than conventional warm air dryers and use less electricity.
After analyzing the data associated with generating electricity for the rapid-air hand dryers versus data related to the production and disposal of paper towels, the high-speed dryers came out on top – but just barely. This held true even when the paper towels were 100% recycled, both in manufacturing and disposal.
It seems that the argument for the rapid air electric hand dryer is the hands down winner. But that could easily change, with smaller, lighter towels or reusable towels (now there’s a concept). New paper technologies could soon provide environmental benefits over the use of high-speed air dryers.
So, the bottom line is that hand-drying methods should be considered by taking into account the life cycle of the whole system so you can make choices that are better for the environment now and in the future.
But whatever you do to limit your environmental impact, the bottom line is: don’t skip the hand washing.
We care about clean.